February 1, 2008
1. Write a brief summary of the project topic
a.) Access to local food sources in Massachusetts
One possible project topic would be an examination of local food sources in Massachusetts. Advocates say eating local foods is healthier for people, local economies, and the environment. Local food is a hot topic in today's climate, in light of rising obesity rates, the decline of small family farms, and the growth of processed and high-fat fast foods. Avenues for purchasing local foods include CSAs (community supported agriculture), farm stands and farmers' markets. This project might include mapping these food sources in Massachusetts. Demographic data may also be an important component. This data might be used to identify local food "deserts". Food deserts are defined as "areas of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy food" (fooddeserts.org).
b.) Property value and education in Massachusetts
This project would be an exploration of the relationship between property value and education achievement (in Massachusetts?). States generally rely heavily on the property tax for funding local public schools; districts with higher property values have a greater source of revenue, and consequently often spend more on their schools. Per pupil expenditure, therefore, is generally higher in districts with higher property values (wealthier communities). Using data such as drop-out rates and testing scores, we can also evaluate the education achievement in varying districts. Are property values related to achievement? This project could look at all of Massachusetts' school districts or be a comparison of several school districts (urban vs. suburban?).
2. Spatial/geographic questions relevant to each topic
a.) Local food
Community inventory questions: Where are farmers' markets, farms, CSA's and farm stands geographically located in MA? How many are there? What communities do they serve?
Service area questions: Based on where food sources are located, which areas of the state need to have greater access? Which are well served?
Area comparison questions: Do districts with higher property values have higher educational achievement rates (ie lower drop out rates, higher test scores, per pupil expenditure)? What geographic patterns can be observed?
Identifying most vulnerable area questions: Are districts with lower property values and lower per-pupil expenditure more vulnerable to lower achievement rates? What is the difference between suburban and urban districts?
3. Provide 4 references that have helped you to think through this topic and its significant geographic/spatial questions
a.) Access to local food sources
-MA Dept of Agriculture
-CISA (Community Involved in Supporting Agriculture)
-"Neighborhood characteristics associated with the location of food stores and food service places." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 22, Issue 1, Pages 23-29. K. Morland (2002).
b.) Property value and education
-A Level Playing Field: School Finance in the Northeast by Jane Fowler Morse
-Making Money Matter: Financing America's Schools published by the National Research
-The Economics of Public School Finance by Aaron Samuel Gurwitz
-City Schools/Suburban Schools: A history of fiscal conflict by Seymour Sacks
-Raising Money for Education: A Guide to the Property Tax by David H. Monk
4. If you know of existing data sources (GIS, tabular, maps, or other) to support the projects, please also list these, and indicate whether you have free access to them.
The Common Core of Data (CCD) is a program of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics that annually collects fiscal and non-fiscal data about all public schools (free).